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County Solar Facility

Cayuga County Planning and Economic Development Department Director Steve Lynch, standing, presents to the county Legislature's Public Works Committee, a map of where a proposed solar facility would be developed on county land in the town of Sennett. The committee Tuesday approved a land development agreement for the project.

AUBURN — A Cayuga County Legislature committee on Tuesday approved a land development agreement for a 6.5 megawatt solar power facility on vacant property near the Cayuga County Jail.

The Legislature's Public Works Committee authorized an agreement, including a 25-year lease, with Abundant Solar Power to develop a solar panel array on the approximately 35-acre piece of county land at the Natural Resource Center at 7445 County House Road.

Electricity generated from the facility would be available to any customers throughout Cayuga County, and the agreement provides the opportunity, but not a commitment, for the county to purchase electricity at a favorable rate, according to County Planning and Economic Development Department Director Steve Lynch.

Typically, according to County Administrator J. Justin Woods, such municipal power purchasing agreements come with a guarantee from the municipality to buy electricity at a locked-in rate. In this case, the county is getting a favorable deal as it is acting as the sponsor for the company to apply to state grants.

Lynch said the cost of electricity for other customers could be higher or lower than other providers, but could not accurately be predicted because of market changes. Even if it were higher, it would offer anyone interested but currently unable to utilize renewable energy, like anyone renting a home, the chance to do so, he said.

The project is part of the Solarize CNY Initiative, a program of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board (CNYRPDB), of which Cayuga County is a member along with four other counties in the region, to identify feasible municipal solar projects, partly through joint solicitation and procurement of a single developer.

The project would come at no cost to the county.

Legislator Chris Petrus, R-Brutus, asked about the viability of the project, citing concerns about New York's frequently cloudy weather, and the county's financial liability should the project fail.

If the project does not move forward or later fails, Lynch said the company readily agreed to work with the county on any necessary sureties and bonds for them to pay for returning the land to its current state. Additionally, Lynch said the CNYRPDB made sure to vet Abundant Solar Power and was confident in their history of real, completed solar projects throughout the state.

The agreement must now proceed through the Ways and Means Committee before reaching the full Legislature. The agreement is also subject to review by Woods and County Attorney Frederick Westphal.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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County government reporter